Q. I had PPD with my daughter who is now 8.5 months old, and strange as it sounds I'm quite sure my husband did too. We've thought about having another child, but we're both a little gun shy because of what we went through the first time. Part of me thinks it would have to be easier now that I feel like a "real Mom". Things are going really well now. What is the risk of going through PPD again with a second baby?
A. First of all, it does not sound "strange" that you think your husband had PPD. It's not as unusual as you and others might think; husbands often respond to the birth of a new baby with depressive symptoms. It's something more people should be alert to.
Now, I'm glad you're feeling so much better. It's no wonder, however, that you would feel a bit "gun shy" about another baby after an experience with PPD. Most women in your situation would share that concern.
When we consider the possibility of a subsequent pregnancy, we need to keep several things in mind:
- What is your history of depression? (The greater the number of previous episodes, the greater your risk of another depression and the more severe it is likely to be)
- How severe was your previous depression? (The more severe the symptoms, the greater the risk of another episode of equal or greater intensity)
- How strong is your family history of depression?
Now, this being said, here are the things that work in your favor:
- If you were treated successfully for an episode of PPD, you know exactly what to do to intervene in the event of a recurrence.
- You have the additional support and resources that you can now tap into, therapist? medication? support system? Books and info? Online resources? And in general, the experience can "prepare" you because you know what to look out for and how best to protect yourself. Arming yourself with info and resources can provide enormous support.
If you and your husband continue to discuss the option of another child, then it's never too early to engage with your support network. One of the things I like to do is have my patient come in during this time so she and her husband can opening discuss all concerns they may have and we can mobilize all available resources and get everything in place, "just in case." Having this kind of open dialogue can provide welcomed relief and reduce the anxiety that may accompany this process.